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Literature / Chime

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Believe me: Nothing in my story will absolve me of guilt. It will only prove what I’ve already told you, which is that I’m wicked.

A 2011 young adult novel by Franny Billingsley. The story centers around Briony Larkin, a self-proclaimed witch who's convinced she's "wicked." Why? Because years ago, in a fit of jealousy and "witchy rage," she conjured up a wind to knock her sister Rose off of a swing and onto a very hard rock and therefore caused Rose's, um, odd character. Meanwhile, there's a swamp cough going around (deadly 100% of the time), the nearby swamp is being drained, Briony's stepmother is recently deceased, and college dropout Eldric moves in. There's also a lot of "Old Ones" running about ... you know, witches, Boggy Muns, dead hands, Dark Muses, brownies, and the like. All of which Briony can see and talk to. Because she's a witch. Which she already told you, so why do you keep forgetting? Do you not believe her or something?


This book provides examples of:

  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: Inverted. Briony is the damaged one with a troubled past, but she gradually learns that she is still loveable due to Eldric's influence.
  • An Arm and a Leg: There's a dead hand that roams around the swamp. Dead hands have a nasty habit of ripping off live hands.
  • Animal Motifs: Wolfgirl and lion-boy.
  • The Atoner: Briony, who still feels guilt over causing Rose's "accident," as well as summoning a wave that nearly killed her stepmother and torching her house's library.
  • Attempted Rape: Cecil on Briony, thwarted by Eldric.
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Rose. She often doesn't "prefer" to do things she doesn't like. She has a habit of repeating herself, despite whether or not people around her have heard her and/or responded already. Very adept at noticing subtle differences between colors, and not adept at much else.
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  • Death by Childbirth: Why Briony and Rose have a stepmother.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: Early in the novel, Briony claims she doesn't feel any emotions. She may comment that feeling something would be "nice," and that's the closest she gets. But prolonged exposure to Eldric changes things.
  • Heroic Self-Deprecation: Briony is pretty hard on herself, giving herself constant reminders that she doesn't deserve kindness or love because she's a witch.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Swamp cough.
  • Lemony Narrator: Briony.
    In a proper story, antagonistic sparks would fly between Eldric and me, sparks that would sweeten the inevitable kiss on page 324. But life doesn’t work that way. I didn’t hate Eldric, which, for me, is about as good as things get.
  • Literal-Minded: Just one of Rose's many lovable quirks. When Briony says, "You don't see me complaining," Rose immediately debates whether you ever see anyone complaining.
  • Love Triangle: Cecil, Briony, and Eldric. Also Briony, Leanne, and Eldric.
  • Nature Spirit: The Boggy Mun is tied to the swamp, and makes a deal with Briony to stop the townspeople from draining it.
  • Parental Neglect: Briony's father, the local clergyman, pretty much left the care of his daughters to his late second wife.
  • Self-Proclaimed Liar: Briony doesn't try to hide it.
    Don’t let my face fool you; it tells the worst lies. A girl can have the face of an angel but have a horrid sort of heart.
  • Theme Twin Naming: Rose and Briony. Rose is a flower, Briony is a poisonous climbing vine. No wonder Briony sees herself as wicked.
  • Will-o'-the-Wisp: They call the 'false lights' that lead you astray in the swamp Wykes (also known as Will-o-Wykes in some parts of Britain).